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Landscapes and flowers dominate my professional artwork – the endless possibilities for color and variety keep me more than motivated to paint every day. Yet there is a belief system that underlies my reverence and admiration for the beauty of this earth.
My deep sense that all of this was created by a loving Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ out of love for each of us, fills me with such gratitude and humility that I keep pushing forward, hoping that I will someday create work that will help others feel Their love as well. My skills may not be there yet, but I am determined to accomplish that goal.
In 2011, the organizer of a huge Nativity event at our church asked if I would create a Nativity painting to add to the dozens of Nativity scenes they had already assembled – Nativities that represented Christian cultures around the world.
Although I had plenty of figurative art training, I felt inadequate to represent a moment in history more celebrated and sacred to the world than any single event that has happened before or since.
I prayed for several weeks as I prepared, but still hesitated to put brush to palette. I scoured the web for inspiration and direction. There are many, many beautiful versions of the Nativity that have been painted, but I felt compelled to create something that demonstrated not only the joy of Jesus’ birth, but also the reverence I have for Mary and Joseph who were chosen to care for God’s Beloved Son.
Finally, I watched the Nativity Story – a movie filmed in 2006.
When Mary placed her hand lovingly on Joseph’s cheek, I knew that was what I had searched for, so I played the DVD on my computer to get a screenshot of the scene that captured that tender moment of affection between Mary and Joseph.
One of the elements that drew me in was the cave setting they used – a more likely scenario than the wooden barn or stable that we often see portrayed.
The problem was, I didn’t want to simply copy the movie’s image – I wanted to create a painting full of the emotion and life only a painting can convey. The other problem was that the view of the baby Jesus did not fit the feeling or image I had in my mind.
To change things up a bit, I asked one of my sons and daughters to pose for me.
I took several shots, but they just couldn’t keep a straight face – not that the subject didn’t warrant serious expressions, but brother and sister trying to be that tender with each other was just too much for them.
Maybe getting them in the fresh air would help.
Practically perfect! We managed to catch one shot of them being a bit more somber.
Then I took that original screenshot and tweaked it a bit in Photoshop to bring out some color and light and change the proportions to match the 18×24 panel I had prepared for the painting.
All that was now needed was adding the sleeping face of the baby Jesus from another scene in the movie and placing Joseph’s hands carefully behind rather than on top of the baby’s head.
I had debated leaving the cow and the donkey in the scene but felt that an ambiguous background would help keep the attention focused fully on the three important figures.
The cooler colors of the cave walls contrasted beautifully with the warmer tones in their faces and the straw I planned to add to the manger, so I played with lavender and blue dry brushed strokes to give the semblance of rough tumbled stones to further contrast with the soft expression of love.
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Aurora came through a bit in the eyes and mouth of Mary, but Joseph looked more like the original actor than it did of my son Harrison. If I had left myself more than a week or two to finish, I may have played with the facial expressions a bit more – fortunately we can still see Aurora shining through.
Does it convey the full breadth of the love and gratitude I have for my Savior – no – but I hope that someone will be touched by it and feel in some measure how this little child changed the world and each of us who let Him into our hearts. The true motivation that underlies all my work is a hope to one day soon begin creating paintings that testify of our Savior – that He lives and loves us.
I have not felt capable yet, but I am striving to learn more each day as an artist to reach a level of skill that will allow the Spirit to work through me and make my best attempts greater than I am capable of on my own. Although my skills fell short, I did feel that guidance with this nativity painting.
The landscapes and flowers I paint are an expression of my love and gratitude for the privilege of living on this beautiful earth and a wonderful way to provide for my family. The gospel paintings I plan to create will be made available for others without cost. I don’t want them to contribute to my income.
The gift our Savior offers us comes without cost – He paid the price freely – all that is required of us is to accept the gift.
That, as much as possible, is my desire with these future paintings as well. Right now, any who would like to use this Nativity painting image for non-commercial purposes are free to email us and we will send you an image file large enough for printing or web. We’re happy to know that it’s been used by quite a few communities and churches already who have reached out to us.
I pray that each of us, whatever our faith, will experience great peace and love during this holiday season. And as artists, I hope we can find ways to share that feeling with others.